A fortnight back, as we performed ‘Tumhari Amrita’ in Agra with Taj serving as the background, I suggested to Farooq that we brought down the curtains to the play we had been doing for 21 years. What else could be a fitting finale for the play than this? I asked. Turning down the idea immediately, he replied, “Why? We would do it for another 21 years!”
But, it's curtains to ‘Tumhari Amrita’ once and for all. There wouldn’t be any more shows of the iconic drama as no one can replace Farooq.
That play in Agra was our last meeting. He sent me Christmas and New Year greetings on December 24 through SMS. Who knew that it would be our last communication.
Talking about a dear friend like him in past tense is like an aberration. It seems wrong grammar to me. How do I speak about a man so hearty like him in past tense?
Farooq and I shared a close bond. Our association was 44 years old. We first met at St Xavier’s College in Mumbai. He was senior to me by two years and we together formed the ‘Hindi Natya Manch’ at the college. There were so many inter-collegiate plays that we did together.
He was so passionate about acting that all money that went into our theatre performances came from his pocket. He would always get the best director award and I would take home the best actor title in all plays we put together.
He later became a part of the Indian People’s Theatre Association (IPTA). After college, I joined the film institute while Farooq’s father wanted him to become a lawyer. But, his talent ensured he came back to acting. He first acted in MS Sathyu’s film that was written by my father (Kaifi Azmi). Thereafter, we essayed many roles together on screen.
Farooq always wore his talent very lightly. He never cared for money and was extremely choosy about his roles. A master in comedy, drama and tragedy, he would never do any film whose script would not appeal to him. His body of work could have been much bigger had he not been so discerning about his roles.
In 1984, we did Muzaffar Ali’s film ‘Anjuman’ that highlighted the plight of chikankari workers. It was since then that he adopted chikankari as his style. In fact, he is to be credited with making chikankari kurtas so popular among men.
His wife and children are really dear to me. It (his sad demise) has all been so sudden that it’s unimaginable. Farooq was never ill. He believed more in Indian medicines and preferred Yunani, homeopathy and Ayurveda. I wish these alternative medicines had kept him healthy for longer.
(As told to Richa Srivastava)